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Is The Grading System In Our Educational Institutions A Deterrent To Free And Fair Learning?

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By Shanthi Cheriyan:

Rahul was one of the toppers in his class, he scored top grades in most of the subjects and was clearly labeled as an IIT product by his teachers. But sadly, he didn’t qualify the test. What failed? He? Or the educational system that trained him?

Rahul is just a typical example of thousands of students out there who are part of the Indian educational system, often called the rat race, which focuses not on learning but becomes a competition of students and teachers to score higher grades. The only learning the system imparts is that of the ability to mug up the curriculum, termed as “rote learning”. End result? A group of students who have scored anywhere from 90 to 100 but has no understanding of the subject. There is even an ad by a prominent health drink, where parents fight to give their child the ‘laddu’ for getting top grades in the class, which apparently that health drink will help achieve.

Education system

Grading system is an initiative brought forth by the government with the prior aim of motivating students. But sadly, it seems to have done more harm than good. It has so altered our learning system that students are more focused on scoring high grade for examinations rather than actually being interested in gaining knowledge through practical learning.

I don’t need to state any facts or do any research to prove this. It is quite clear if we observe the students who graduate from various universities and colleges. According to a report in the Fair Observer, there are about 621 universities and 27468 colleges in India as of 2012. Thousands of engineers graduate from various colleges all over India, probably one of the largest numbers in the world. But we still lag behind in terms of technological advancements and innovations.

A typical image of a classroom still remains that of a professor walking in, marking attendance, delivering lectures while the students copy it down, mug up and vomit the same during exams. If you have the ability to mug up and recall whatever you have learned, you become a bright student. Practical knowledge and analytical skills seems to have very little importance in our educational system.

The first thing that any organization that you go to work for asks is, to ‘unlearn what you have learned’. What is the use of such education? Why would you want to waste your parents’ money if the only thing it can buy you is a degree and not practical knowledge?

In a study, it was found that students who were told they would be graded on how well they learn a social studies lesson found it more difficult to understand the content than the students who were told that they would not be graded. (Grolnick and Ryan, 1987)

It is high time that we change our focus from grade oriented to learning oriented education. We need to give our students better reasons for education other than grades. Apart from an awareness that we do not need grades to engage students and to motivate them to learn. Research has shown that when the curriculum is engaging, that is, teaching is made more interactive and students are given more practical classes and hands-on experience, students who are not graded perform at the same level as students who are graded. (Moeller and Reschke, 1993)

The Indian government and education ministry should take a wide look at the current state and make holistic changes to the system which can, in the coming years and decades, churn out better educated, learned and better prepared individuals.

You must be to comment.
  1. Manan Grover

    The recent changes in the high school education, that is removing of board exams in class 10th and bringing in the CCE (Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation) system has brought about a major shift from the rote-learning culture. More weight age is being given to projects and class interaction and assignments than the mug-up and reproduce in exams systems.Changes need to happen at the graduation level as well. A students grade at the end of the day should reflect his real time application of the subject and not how many answers he mugged up.

  2. gagandeep

    there should be more practical and less theoretical education . this should be done too early otherwise i dont think that any of the citizen will get the proper thing which is ther right…..

  3. Varun Bhargava

    Teachers and students in India know very well what clicks in education institutions here. Grades are the primary parameter here, and that’s what’s making people lesser skilled and rote learners. The system is wrong right from the beginning. The new systems introduced(CCE etc) are just an upgrade to the mugging going on out there. The projects involved in the CCE system and the assignments are made by teachers, and they know what to do to provide themselves with easement. As an example, in most of the schools, students are asked to make charts or tables on a particular topic and are mostly graded on the basis of the art aspects. Where does the knowledge and application aspect go?We’re just losing out on the innovation front, and that’s the need of the hour in today’s scenario.

  4. Mounik Lahiri (@mindscaped)

    I co authored this some time ago, faint guess you might want to read through it:

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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